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Divorced women and state pensions: are you being paid the right amount?

This page has been designed to provide information to divorced women who reached state pension age before 6th April 2016. It aims to help women identify if they have been underpaid state pension in the past and if they are being paid the correct amount now.

This page is purely for information and anyone with any concerns about their state pension should always check with the Pension Service. We would however be interested to hear of your experiences and you can email LCP partner Steve Webb at steve.webb@lcp.uk.com.

The two groups of women covered by this page are:

  • Women who divorced before reaching state pension age and did not remarry before reaching state pension age; this does however include those who divorced, remarried and divorced again – the key point is that your marital status when reaching state pension age was “divorced”
  • Women who were married at state pension age but divorced after state pension age

1. Women who divorced before reaching state pension age

If your marital status was ‘divorced’ when you reached state pension age, you may be able to benefit from the National Insurance Contributions of your ex husband. (In the event that you married more than once, it would be the NI Contributions of your ‘most recent’ ex husband which would be relevant). 

This calculation can improve your ‘basic’ state pension (worth up to £137.60 per week in 2021/22), but does not affect any ‘additional’ state pension you may receive.

Note that benefiting from your ex husband’s NI contributions in this way has no impact on the amount of state pension which he receives.

In normal circumstances, your state pension is based on your own record of NI Contributions. However, if you were divorced when you reached pension age you can ‘substitute’ the NI contributions of your ex husband. His contribution record can be used instead of yours for the period up to the date of your divorce. After this it is your own contributions which apply.

What this means is that women who divorced later in life may find that they can benefit from the contributions of an ex husband for a long period of time and may as a result qualify for a full basic state pension.

When you claimed your pension you would have been asked to specify your marital status. If you ticked ‘divorced’, DWP should have asked for details of your ex husband and should already have undertaken this calculation on your behalf, though you may wish to check that this is the case.

But if you never claimed a pension – perhaps thinking that you were not entitled in your own right – then you can still claim now, and any entitlement will be backdated to your pension age.

2. Women who divorced after reaching state pension age

If you were married when you reached pension age but subsequently divorced, you can apply to have your state pension reassessed on the basis of your ex husband's NI record. Because you were married up to pension age, you can use the whole of his NI record to the time when you retired to substitute for your own. As most men draw a full state pension in their own right, it is quite likely you would also qualify for a full, or nearly full, state pension as a result.

However, DWP will only undertake this reassessment if you notify them of your divorce. Any increase in your state pension will only apply from when you reported this ‘change of circumstances’, and will not be backdated to when you divorced. It is therefore vitally important that you notify DWP of your divorce as soon as possible.

Contacting the Pension Service

Whether you divorced before pension age and now want to claim a pension on your ex husband’s record, or you divorced after pension age, you need to contact the Pension Service. Their contact details can be found at: Contact the Pension Service - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

You are likely to be asked for documentary proof, such as a Decree Absolute, and you should expect it to take some time to process your application.

Do let us know how you get on!


Information on this webpage does not constitute financial advice or other professional advice, nor a recommendation of a particular course of action.

Lane Clark and Peacock LLP, its officers or employees do not accept any responsibility or liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused by action taken (or a decision not to take action) as a result of information provided by this.

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